Walk in Ireland – The One With A Dramatic Cliff Path
Picture-perfect villages nestled into lush hillsides, ruined castles teetering on cliff edges, breath taking ocean views, the ever-present crash of the waves on a dramatic cliff path walk……. There are so many wonders to be experienced and embraced all along the Causeway Coastal Route.
One such wonder along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route, is The Gobbins: a spectacular and dramatic cliff path that hugs the Antrim coastline in Northern Ireland.
Clinging to basalt cliffs just outside the town of Larne, this Edwardian marvel has been tenderly restored for the 21st century.
Designed by the railway engineer Berkeley Deane Wise in 1902, the Gobbins closed in 1954 when the depression of the 1930s and lack of materials post-World War II caught up with this one-of-a-kind visitor experience. But after extensive renovations, the Gobbins opened again, and it’s a hugely popular walk.
Here you’ll find yourself standing on steel bridges above the churning waves and enjoying up-close views of the Gobbins many sea birds.
Clinging to the ancient rock, too, are diverse plants, ferns and grasses, among them spleenwort, a fern from which a cave here takes its name.
Moderate – A reasonable level of fitness is required – The Gobbins experience includes a short bus ride, then a steep descent which is followed by over 100 steps to the path entrance. Due to the exertion incurred on the walk it is unsuitable for visitors with cardiac conditions (including pacemakers), respiratory problems, back or joint pain or diabetics who have not medicated properly. This walk is strenuous in places.
Led by a friendly, enthusiastic personal guide brimming with local knowledge on the area’s history, flora and fauna, the guided tour along the cliff path is approximately 5 km (3 miles) and ends in a steep upward climb back to your transport. Overall, the experience lasts 2.5 to 3 hours.
Start at/Finish at:
The Gobbins Visitor Centre, Middle Road, Islandmagee BT40 3SL, County Antrim. A welcome video is played at the visitor centre, explaining a little of the history of the tour and safety features. Each visitor is provided with a helmet before a bus then takes you from the centre to the beginning of the cliff walk, returning to the centre at the end of the tour.
How to get there:
From Belfast, take the A2 Causeway Coastal Route heading North from Belfast to Larne, travel through Carrickfergus past the historic castle, past the turn off for the seaside town of Whitehead and turn right into Islandmagee onto the Island Road Lower (B90) watch for the brown signposts for The Gobbins.
Travel straight ahead until you reach a mini roundabout with a sign indicating the village of Ballystrudder, and then continue straight ahead until you are facing the Rhinka ice cream parlour.
Turn left and continue less than ½ mile and you will find the Gobbins Visitor Centre located on your left.
The Dramatic Cliff Walk Tour
In the company of an informed and friendly guide, step through the entrance known as Wise’s Eye and enter a magical place, rich in biodiversity. The tour group size has reduced to 10 visitors to better ensure social distancing in the briefing room, bus and path.
Named after the path’s creator over 100 years ago, Wise’s Eye was made to provide access to “the most spectacular section of the original path… over crashing waves to sunken caves and sheer cliff faces.” Pass a natural aquarium of seawater teeming with marine life, explore darkened tunnels and a hidden smugglers’ cave, and navigate the tubular bridge suspended above the choppy sea – you might say it’s as close to walking on water as you’re ever likely to get!
The Tubular Bridge
Modelled on the original, the Tubular Bridge is an exposed tubular walkway hanging some 10 metres above the chilly Irish Sea. And the weight of this metal behemoth? An impressive 5.4 tonnes.
The Gobbins biodiversity
Did you know: the cliffs at the Gobbins play host to Northern Ireland’s ONLY mainland colony of puffins? This biodiverse area also welcomes other birds to it’s cliff face including kittiwakes, shags, guillemots, razor bills and, from time to time, a peregrine falcon. You might even spot cormorants diving for fish in the Irish Sea.
Take a peek
Walk this way to view a short video of the Gobbins Cliff Path Walk
Check the weather
Wear layers of appropriate clothing, waterproof jacket and correct footwear/waterproof hiking boots. You could be refused entry if you are not wearing appropriate footwear such as hiking/walking boots with a thick tread and ankle support. Trainers are not acceptable.
Bring a camera for the fabulous views.
Never leave any items or valuables visible inside your parked vehicle.
Book this guided walk in advance – It is highly recommended to pre book this tour well in advance, especially for morning walks during High Season (April to September) as it usually gets booked up over 2 weeks ahead.
You’ll definitely deserve a treat if you’ve explored the impressive Gobbins Cliff path! Refuel at the Gobbins Café in the heart of Islandmagee and within the world class Gobbins Visitor Centre. It serves tasty, locally sourced dishes which you can select from a specially themed menu. There are substantial snacks here for the adventurer, such as the Ballylumford Bap, Paddy’s Irish Pizza, the Wise Guy Fry and The Seven Sisters salad. Here you will find Robinson’s sausages, eggs and fruit and veg from Fosters in Whitehead and freshly made soda and potato bread from Delaceys Bakery in Carrickfergus. There is a substantial range of sweet treats from home made cakes to tray bakes from the Pastry Chef in Larne including gluten free options to go with a cup of tea. Emphasis is always placed on good quality here.
Phone 999 or 112 and advise the emergency crew whether you need an Ambulance, the Gardaí (police), Fire Brigade or Mountain Rescue.
The Gobbins Cliff Path Walk “Leave No Trace” principles are:
- Plan ahead and pre book your visit.
- Be Considerate of Others
- Respect all Animals and Wildlife
- Travel on Durable Ground
- Leave What You Find
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Minimize the effects of fire – Smoking and eating are not allowed along the cliff path. A bottle of water and warm outdoor clothing is recommended.
Minimize your impact on the environment. Leave nothing but footprints & take nothing but photographs.
Take a Giant step in Northern Ireland.
The Causeway Coastal route is the perfect location for your next vacation. If you are looking to plan a vacation to explore the Causeway Coastal Route and other gems of Northern Ireland, contact Specialized Travel Services by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our contact form
Take a look at our Northern Gems tour for additional tour inspiration for planning your next vacation to Ireland. Get ready for an Irish road trip filled with lots of memories that will last a lifetime. Ireland’s north coast is a walker’s wonderland and the Causeway Coastal Route should be savored every step of the way.
Note: Featured image at the top of the blog is of the Gobbins Cliff Walk – Swing bridge Photographer: Arthur Ward© Tourism Ireland
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